Theresa Paulsen: Preparing to Explore the Ocean Floor, March 9, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Theresa Paulsen
Preparing to Board NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
March 16 – April 3, 2015

Mission:  Caribbean Exploration (Mapping)
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Caribbean Trenches and Seamounts
Date: March 9, 2015

Personal Log

If you could have any super power imaginable, what would it be?  Growing up, my son asked me this question numerous times as we walked our dog.  While he pondered the advantages of flight, invisibility, or spontaneous combustion, my answer was always the same.  I want Aquaman’s powers (but a better looking outfit).  I want to swim underwater without the need for dive gear, seahorses, or gillyweed, to see what few others have seen.  I want to communicate with whales and dolphins to find out what their large brains can teach us about our planet.  While I may not be able to attain superhero status, I can join some real-world adventurers on an amazing vessel equipped to conduct research that will help realize my dream of seeing the unseen depths of the ocean.

Hello, from Northern Wisconsin!  My name is Theresa Paulsen.  I am a high school science teacher in Ashland, WI.  I have been teaching for 17 years while living along the south shore of Lake Superior with my husband and our two children.

My husband, Bryan
My husband, Bryan
Our children, Ben and Laura, paddling the sea caves in the Apostle Islands, N.L.
Our children, Ben and Laura, paddling the sea caves in the Apostle Islands, N.L.

The pristine lake and the rich forests around the region provide the resources that sustain our local communities.  As we work to promote local stewardship in the classroom, we must recognize that the health and welfare of the resources we treasure are connected to the greater global environment which is heavily influenced by the processes that occur in our oceans. The geological processes occurring near our research zone are fascinating.  The North American plate slides passed the Caribbean plate creating the Puerto Rico trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Bathymetry of the northeast corner of the Caribbean plate. Image courtesy of USGS.

Maps generated by the vessel’s state-of-the-art multibeam sonar on our mission will help geologists learn more about the tectonic activity and potential seismic hazards in the area. (Let’s hope the only rumblings I feel are those caused by the typical mild sea-sickness!)  The maps will also be used by marine biologists and resource managers to investigate and assess unique habitat zones.  Learn more the mission goals here.

My students and I have been checking in on the vessels live video feed periodically as the ship sails from Rhode Island to Puerto Rico, mapping along the way.  I will join the crew in Puerto Rico on the 14th to begin training before the vessel sets sail for the second leg of the mission on the 16th.  Throughout our journey, scientists will use the maps we generate to determine areas that require further investigation with the vessel’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on the third leg of the mission.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer with camera sled, Seirios, deployed and below that, IFE’s Little Hercules—a science-class ROV. Credit: Randy Canfield and NOAA.

My goal is to learn as much as I can on this expedition!  There is no better way to motivate students to become life-long learners and scientific thinkers than to show them how exciting real research can be.   Through the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, my students and I will have the rare opportunity to learn first-hand about the science and technology oceanographers use to study fascinating places in the ocean.   I will return to the classroom in April, equipped with lesson ideas and answers to questions about ocean research and careers! Thank you for following me on my journey.  Please post questions or comments.  I will do my best to address them in future posts (although communication aboard the vessel can be tenuous, I am told).  Here is my first question for you:

28 Replies to “Theresa Paulsen: Preparing to Explore the Ocean Floor, March 9, 2015”

  1. Hello Theresa! I am the other TAS who will be out at the same time as you, heading to the Gulf of Mexico on the Gordon Gunter. I found your blog, and wish you the best! Your cruise sounds really exciting. Can’t wait to follow it! By the way, I really wanted to go to Northland College back in the day, but my parents wouldn’t let me travel that far to school. I’m still upset with them about that!

    1. Julia, your cruise sounds interesting too. Lots of tiny critters to investigate. I’ll be checking your blog too!

  2. Way to represent us, Theresa. What a great opportunity for you, and I’m excited for all of the great learning you will be bringing back to our kids. I can see a Seminar for the Charter on the horizon!

  3. Theresa,
    Jody and I are looking forward to tracking your adventure via your blog. We hope you have a wonderful experience. Dan

  4. Hi Theresa!!!! Hope your travels went smoothly from northern Wisconsin to the Carribean. Our warm spell is over and it looks like we will be getting our maple syrup gathering weather after all….freezing night temps and warm days. I look forward to showing my students your live feed this week. Anni

  5. How’s it going down there in the warm sun? We are just now starting chapter 17 in the classroom. -Ethan K

    1. Hi Ethan,
      That’s great that you are starting the waves unit! There is a lot to learn here about putting sound and light waves to work! How’s the music coming? I’ve got a lot of video footage to make a great video already!

    1. Hi Bode,

      Aquaman does look good in the his suit, but on me? Yellow is just not my color! 🙂 Still – I’d love to have his powers right about now!

    1. Hi Alycia,

      The manufacturer of the distiller recommends that because the turbidity within 20 miles of shore increases, meaning it is more murky due to runoff and activity near shore. Particles in the distiller can cause problems and decrease the life of the equipment. Thanks for the question!

    1. Hi Flora,

      You are so sweet! I miss you too! I’ll be back very soon. I am so excited to tell you in person about all the awesome science I am learning!

    1. Hi SL,

      We played chess a few times. I lost each time! Those folks are good!
      I really didn’t get bored. I worked on my blog whenever I had time to spare. The internet connection was spotty while we were so far out, so it took a lot of time.

      Mrs. Paulsen

    1. Hi Mick,

      Boy, not really. I find most things interesting – especially when I am seeing them for the first time. I like to learn just about anything.

      Mrs. Paulsen

    1. I would love to go again and would be willing to go anywhere! I am always on the lookout for research experiences for teachers. It is so much fun to see science in action and visit places I have never been.

      Mrs. Paulsen

    1. Hi Colton,

      My kids are Ben and Laura. They are sailing instructors for North Coast Community Sailing. They love the water as much as I do!

      Mrs. Paulsen

  6. I wish I could of gone on this trip instead of being in school. Looks like you had a lot of fun on it.

  7. The water looks VERY blue and looks like warm weather!! did you get a chance to swim at all?
    Also i know on some boats the food is not ever good but what your cooking looks good, was the food good? Did you get sea sick at all? the waves look very large the boat must of rocked alot how was sleeping?

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